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Archive for the ‘Steven Page’ Category

 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Night 1] (February 25, 1994).

The next four shows are four of the five nights from the Second Annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-Mar 1, 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. This first night featured 24 songs never previously released and a few that were played live very very rarely including Joey III, Floating, Fluffy, Green Xmas (which would appear years later as The Music Room on Harmelodia) and Symphony. Some of the audio on the beginning of each side of the tape is a bit warped and thus has a bit of a flange like effect for a few minutes.

That flange is very noticeable on “Jesus Was Once a Teenager, Too,” but it all settles down for “Tim Vesely going electric” on “Introducing Happiness.”  Bidini jokes that this is going to be their “up with life” album.

Introducing “One More Colour,” Dave Clark says, “Our next diddy is by a friend of ours who we last played with in Guelph.”  They follow it up with “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” and “Full Moon Over Russia.”  After this song they ask the audience which chord they like better during one section–the minor chord wins.

They introduce “Fishtailin'” as a song about “love and life and living and loving.”  But an even better introduction comes for “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds” in which Bidini says it’s a song about the missing link.  Mankind was just walking around on earth drooling a lot.  And then all of a sudden they were up flying kites and making hotcakes and colorizing films and making Top 40 Radio.  Some say aliens impregnated cro-magnon man.  Dave thinks they came down for just two days and made everything happen.

Before the next song, Clark asks, “Dave what’s the best time of the year?”  Bidini says “Spring time: spring training starts.  Clark says I find around September 23rd (Bidini says, that’s coz baseball’s ending) because it’s 21 degrees–my favorite temperature.  Bidini: “yeah well spring’s better.”

There’s some banter about rehearsal space.  Clark says the band that used the microphones after them left them smelling like cheese.  Tim: “and by coincidence the band is called “Cheesemike.”  Then Clark tells a story about them being on Lunch TV, with his friends calling up saying “hey man, what are you doing on lunch TV,” and I said, “what the fuck are you doing watching it?”  Martin is annoyed because he stepped all over his introduction to a sweet version of “Take Me in Your Hand.”

They ask if there are any complaints so far.  Has everyone who has written the band gotten a reply?  Then Tim requests that Martin sing a verse of “Fluffy” which has only been played one other time on the live bootlegs (back in 1990).  The verse about champagne  Champagne?  Martinis, sorry.  It’s incredible falsetto, but Martin stops the song and says it sucked.  The last time they did that song a dark cloud came over Saskatoon.  Martin gives himself credit for writing one of the sickest songs ever.

Then they do one of the “not sickest” songs ever written: “Claire.”  Whale Music the film is locking down on Tuesday.  Clark jokes “Lee Majors is in it!”–he isn’t.  And then a great version of “Me and Stupid” before they take a break.

Paul McCloud “and his two little clouds” played in between sets.

They come back and At the conclusion of “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos” Dave says that song is where Jethro Tull meets Rush.  Someone shouts, “What corner?”  Dave replies, “The corner of Bloor and Symington” (voted as the worst intersection in 2012).  At the end of “In This Town” Clark asks “who’s got Olympic fever? I do!”  Bidini asks, “Who’s your favorite Olympian?” Clark mentions a sportscaster….  Bidini says, “Dave hasn’t watched one second of the Olympics clearly, or he would have said Myriam Bédard.

Then there’s “Floating” a song I don’t know at all.  It’s a slow building Bidini song with a bouncy refrain of “up in the air” and a really noisy middle section.  After that he asks, “Didn’t everyone on the Finnish national hockey team look like Great Bob Scott?”  Clark says, “It’s funny you should mention that.  If I was gonna write a song for anybody it would be for Kevin Hearn, my favorite clown.  Of course none of you know who Kevin Hearn is… (ironic that they opened for BNL the previous year)

We had an idea one night that we would do a sequel to Melville–continue the stories from the album.  They only have two, this one “Onielly’s Strange Dream: is one of them.  It starts out very pretty with a recognizable guitar riff, but midway through the tape must change or something, it gets really loud and flangy.  It’s okay, it’s virtually impossible to forget the words on record.  It’s virtually impossible to forget the words “chicken Jimmy kept em alive,” To which Martin mumbles, “yea well he did.  It’s not funny.”

“Symphony” is also new to me.  On the song Bidini plays drums.  Martin stops the songs after a few verses and Dave complains that Clark was so jealous that Dave was playing drums that he forgot to turn the snare on.  And then Martin says it was way fast.  There’s some cool riffs and a line about no one takes solos in this band.  I’d like to hear that one more clearly.

Before the next song, Bidini says, I don’t play guitars on this, thank the lord.  Then there’s some drummer jokes:

Drums is a promotion actually–a drummer told me that.
Clark yells, “If Laura Lynn’s in the audience shame on you for cutting on drummers–they’re the foundation of any band.”
Bidini: “What did she say? How do you know a drummer’s at your door?  The knock speeds up and gets louder.  Coz if she did, that would be okay.”
Clark says, “Of course the most schooled musicians sit behind the tubs.”

The slow and country sounding “Row,” gets the dramatic introduction, “This is a song… Tim wrote.”  Then comes a rocking “Triangles on the Wall.”

Before “Bread, Meat, Peas and Rice,” Clark asks, “Just acoustic guitar and voice?”  But no, “Full band.” Clark jokes, “We’ll attempt a song we don’t know.”  At the end Clark asks, “Was that cannibolically inspired?”  “Alomar” is always a fun treat especially when followed by a wild and raucous “PROD.”  At the end Tim asks, “I wonder if Steven Page had a song, “We are the people’s republic of Steven Page, how would it go?”  And they give it a shot.

They then launch into the lurching “The Royal Albert” the other song that’ s a sequel (“Joey Part II”) which ends with the guys all singing what sounds like “soooey.”  After this song, Dave says, “We’ll take some requests because we’ve run out of new material. [Much shouting] Okay we’ll do them all.”

They start with “Record Body Count” which ends with a fugue vocal of everyone singing “Joey stepped up on a block of ice,” which is pretty cool.  It’s followed by the unrecorded “Joey III” (all three parts together, just out of sequence).  “Joey III” contains the “do you believe it” refrain from “Christopher,” which is a little odd, but which works.  This segues into a slow “Self Serve Gas Station” that eventually rocks out.

They end the set with some covers: a short, sloppy but fun version of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” (sung by Martin) and a pretty rocking version of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” (sung by Dave) which segues into a blast of “RDA.”

Despite the slightly muddy sound, this is a great set, especially if you like Introducing Happiness.

[READ: January 18, 2017]: “In This One”

I don’t really have a sense for what Stephen Dixon is doing in his writings.  He really likes to play with convention as a way of telling a fairly conventional story.

So, in this one, Dixon uses the phrase “in this one” in nearly every sentence.

It starts out “In this one he’ll have only one daughter and no other child.  In this one he’ll be divorced and his ex-wife will live in California…”

The character being discussed is a writer, “in this one he’ll have finished a novel a month or so ago after working on it for more than three years.”

In this one, his daughter tries to set him up with a coworker but neither finds the other interesting.

It sounds like Dixon is trying to write a new story–trying to create a character based on other characters.  But as the story proceeds it seems like this story is far more self-reflective.  In this one he meets a woman and he’s off to bed with her. But he warns her that it has been a long time and he hopes he’s able to get started. (more…)

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joySOUNDTRACK: STEVEN PAGE-Page One (2010).

pageoneThis is the first proper solo album for Steven Page, former Barenaked Lady.  He did have a side projet while he was still a BNL guy, called The Vanity project, but this comes after he left the band.  As a lead songwriter for  BNL, this album sounds an awful lot like a BNL album.  But he does branch out a bit for better and worse, on a couple of songs.  I like that the record is designed sort of like a book.  And that there’s a library check out sleeve and that one of the names who checked out the “book” is Leland Palmer (ha).

“A New Shore” sounds like classic Barenaked Ladies, with a big chorus (and Page’s great voice), strings and even a whistling section.  If you imagine the harmony vocals are by Ed Robertson, this could easily fit on a BNL disc.  “Indecision” sounds like latter BNL with the “whoo hoos” and the way the verses really slow down the craziness of the chorus.  The big difference is the female backing vocals.  “Clifton Springs” opens with a ba da da section and a very catchy melody that sounds like a sitcom theme song (hey sitcoms, check this out!).  It’s a mellow song that really highlights Page’s voice.

“Entourage” is a kind of dance song.  It has a kind of Pet Shop Boys feel (or else I’ve been listening to the Pet Shop Boys too much).  It even has a line “I only love you when I’m drunk” which echoes Pet Shop Boys’ “You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk.”  But I love the way Page says “Alright” at the end of the chorus and it could possibly have been a dance hit.  It ends with a minute or so of a jazzy coda.  “Marry Me” could also be a theme (to the new show Marry Me, duh).  It’s energetic and poppy.

“All the Young Monogamists” has cello and violin and in some places, little else.  It’s quite a different sound for the album, like a minor orchestral piece.  It works mostly.  “She’s Trying to Save Me” is a great return to the bouncy single that BNL did so well.  “Over Joy” has a very sixties feel (the way Page’s voice is processed).  “If You Love Me” has a very synthy 90s pop feel.  I can see it being on the far end of Page’s fun zone, but I don’t really like it.  When the song ramps up to the next notes around 2:50, it is excruciating.  On the other end of the spectrum is “Leave Her Alone” which opens like a big band number (and stays that way in the chorus) but has verses that are very electronic.

“Queen of America” is a big bouncy song, that I wish I liked more.  The final song, the five and a half-minute “The Chorus Girl” is a sad ballad (the kind that Page also writes very well).  The song seems to want to be an epic (with horns an extended coda), but I think it drags on a bit too long.

Anyone who misses Page in BNL will certainly like this album.  And those who are a little disappointed in the Page-less BNL newer records could easily mix half a dozen songs from this and some of the best songs from the newer BNL records into a very satisfying BNL+Page disc which would sound totally coherent.

[READ: April 25, 2014] Further Joy

This is Brandon’s first collection of short stories and I enjoyed them all quite a lot.  Brandon specialized in disaffected protagonists, settled and settling in the South.  And there is a nice amount of diversity in these stories.

The Favorite
In this story, Gardner returns to his home town after ten years of being away.  he was quite a success when he left, but his return is less than exciting.  He lives in small town that was big into high school football and he was glad to be away from it.  But now that he is back he goes to games with his mother. The locals are happy he’s back, they think it’s great that he returned to be with his mom and to look after her.   But he is miserable.

The only thing that makes the return palatable is seeing Ainsley.  They dated in high school but didn’t have a bad breakup when he left.  She is divorced now and single. She works in a doctor’s office and tells him stories about patients (despite it being against HIPPA–although she ever gives names).  Since he is short on cash, he uses some information that she gives him to bet on an upcoming football game (he was able to figure out one of the players from the injury she described). Now the question is, could he go through with the scheme.  He calls on a favor from another former friend who has never had much success.  It could all go horribly wrong, of course.  I really enjoyed this story a lot, and I loved the way the title played into the story unexpectedly.
(more…)

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SOUNDTRACKART OF TIME ENSEMBLE WITH STEPHEN PAGE-A Singer Must Die (2009).

According to their website, “Art of Time Ensemble is one of Canada’s most innovative and artistically accomplished music ensembles. Their mandate is to give classical music the contemporary relevance and context it needs to maintain a broader audience to survive.”

So what you get is a modern orchestra playing contemporary music.  It’s not a unique idea, but in this case, it works very effectively.  And what you also get is Stephen Page, former singer of the Barenaked Ladies as the vocalist.  Page has an awesome voice.  I’ve often said I could listen to him sing anything.  And here’s a good example of him singing anything.

The great thing is that the song choices are unusual and wonderful–not immediate pop hits or classic standards–it’s a cool menagerie of songs with great lyrics and equally great compositions.  This is no heavy metal with strings, this is majestic songs with orchestral scoring.  The orchestra includes: piano, sax/clarinet, cello, violin, guitar and bass.

And the song choices are fascinating.  And with Page’s amazing theatrical voice, the songs sound quite different, mostly because the original singers don’t have powerful voices.  They all have interesting and distinctive voices, but not operatic ones.  So this brings a new aspect to these songs (I knew about half of them before hand).

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS-Lion’s Teeth.
This is a very dramatic reading of this dramatic song.  It pushes the boundaries of the original song.

ELVIS COSTELLO-I Want You.
I had never heard this Costello song.  With Costello you never know what the original will sound like–punk pop, orchestral, honky tonk?  It’s a fascinating song, though and Page hits some really striking and I would say uncomfortable notes.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT-Foolish Love
I don’t know Rufus’ work very well, although I immediately recognized this as one of his songs.  Page plays with Wainwright’s wonderful theatrics and makes this song his own.

BARENAKED LADIES-Running Out of Ink
Covering one of his own songs, this is fascinating change.  The original is a fast, almost punky song, and it seems very upbeat.  This string version brings out the angst that the lyrics really talk about (Page is definitely a drama queen).

LEONARD COHEN-A Singer Must Die
This is one of the great self-pitying songs and the lyrics are tremendous.  Page takes Cohen’s usual gruff delivery and fills it with theater. It’s a great version.

JANE SIBERRY-The Taxi Ride
Coming from her early album The Speckless Sky, this is a wonderfully angsty song with the premise that is summarized: “it’s a long, long, lonely ride to find the perfect lover for your lover.”  Page hits one of the highest notes I’ve heard from him here.  Very dramatic.

THE DIVINE COMEDY-Tonight We Fly
This is one of my favorite Divine Comedy songs.  Of course it is already string filled, so this version isn’t very different.  But its wonderful to hear it in another context.

THE WEAKERTHANS-Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
I love this song.  This is a guitar filled pop punk song, so the strings add a new edge to it.

THE MAGNETIC FIELDS-For We Are the King of the Boudoir
I know the Magnetic Fields but not this song.  It’s quite clever and funny (as the Fields tend to be) and Page makes some very dramatic moments.

RADIOHEAD-Paranoid Android
I recently reviewed a covers album of OK Computer, wondering how someone could cover the record.  The same applies to this song.  A string orchestra is a good choice for it, as there is so much swirling and crescendo.  And while nothing could compare to the original (and they don’t try to duplicate it), this is an interetsing choice.  As is Page’s voice.  He has a much better voice than Thom Yorke, but that actually hinders the song somewhat when he gets a little too operatic in parts.  Nevertheless, it is an interetsing and enjoyable cover.

The whole record is full of over the top drama.   It’s perfectly suited for Page and it’s a side of him that has peeked out on various releases but which he really gets to show off here.  As an album, the compositions all work very well–they are, after all, trying to make classical pieces out of them–not just covering them.  And the choices of songs are really inspired.  Dramatic and interesting and when the music slows down, the lyrics lend to a wonderfully over the top performance.

If you like Page or orchestral rock, this is worth tracking down.

[READ: November 28, 2011] “Leaving Maverly”

For some reason I was under the impression that Alice Munro was no longer writing.  I’m glad that’s not true, and really, what else would she do with herself–she has so many more stories to tell.

I think of Munro’s stories as being straightforward, but this one was slightly convoluted and actually had two things going on at once.  It opens by discussing the old town of Maverly.  Like many towns it once had a movie theatre.  The protectionist and owner was a grumpy man who didn’t deal well with the public, and that’s why he hired a young girl to take the tickets and be the face of the theatre.  When she got in the family way, he was annoyed, but immediately set out to hire someone else.  Which he did.  The new girl, Leah, came from a very religious family.  She was permitted to work there under the stipulation that she never see or hear a movie or even know anything about them.  And that she get a ride home.  The owner balked at this second idea–he surely wasn’t going to drive her home.  So instead, he asked the local policeman Ray, to walk her home.  Which he agreed to do.

The next section of the story looks at Ray.  And although the story is ostensibly about Leah, we get a lot more history of Ray.   He was a night policeman only because his wife, Isabel, needed help at home during the day.  We learn about the scandalous way he met his wife and how they managed through the years until she became ill.

Ray talks with Leah on their walks home, something he found terribly awkward because of how cloistered she was.  Then he would get home and talk with Isabel about Leah. This young girl who meant nothing to him was suddenly a significant part of his life.

And then one day the theater owner came to report that Leah was missing.  They went to see her father at the mill, but she wasn’t there.  And there was really no other place where Leah went, so they were at a loss.  It was winter and they feared the worst. (more…)

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